Sarah Wilson: Blind Prom

14 Jun


An interesting exhibition is currently on at New York’s Foley Gallery where Sarah Wilson combines photojournalism and portraiture to document prom night for the students of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

The press release for the exhibition is true in that it is certainly inspiring to see a group of marginalised teenagers enjoy an American rite-of-passage.  Wilson has worked with the blind community for many years and understands that this is an important ritual in which they have a right to participate.  Yet I can’t get my mind off a darker narrative that underpins these full-colour images.

This narrative gives rise to many questions that I would probably not externalise outside the safe confines of the internet: namely, what’s the point of a blind prom?  Why do they dress up if they can’t even see each other.  Is the photographer exploiting these children simply for the sake of interesting subject matter?  Are they dressing up for themselves or their parents?  And am I a bad person for daring to ask these questions?





Posted by on June 14, 2009 in looking, photography


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

3 responses to “Sarah Wilson: Blind Prom

  1. keith maitland

    June 17, 2009 at 8:53 am

    I’m glad you’ve asked these questions – Sarah tackles some of them in this interview:

    Teens with disabilities are still teens. If you remember that for a moment, I think most of your questions will be answered…

    As for exploitation, I know that the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired couldn’t be more excited about Sarah’s work and the attention that it has given to them and to this under-served community. I know it because they’ve been bragging on Sarah and her work, and they’ve even purchased a number of her prints for their permanent collection. Their response is so positive because this photography does not exploit these kids and this school – in actuality, it honors them. And it causes people to ask the very questions you did… questions that when answered honestly provide insight into the world of the visually impaired, allowing for greater understanding, connectivity, empathy, and ultimately support.

    • traffman

      June 17, 2009 at 8:00 pm

      Hi Keith – thanks for sending that link through – a really interesting interview. Wilson\’s art has certainly opened my eyes to something that I hadn\’t given a lot of thought until now. It\’s great to see the TSBVI endorsing this work and fantastic to see this bunch of kids simply having fun.

  2. vickie

    September 15, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Well i am offended by the simple comment why are these blind children dressing up is they cant see eachother..My granddaughter is blind and she loves to have her nails painted and toenails painted, not for the same reasons we do, as we know she cant see with her eyes, but she feels the paint and then to blow them dry is the biggest smile. it tickles. What i am saying is they understand dressing up, they just understand it diff than we do.
    I am glad you were not blessed with a speacial needs child because it would be sad knowing how you already think.


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